A very athletic client of mine came to see me with neck pain. He was an avid cyclist and had just completed a five day cycling tour of Texas. I ask him how long he cycled each day during the tour and he indicated anywhere from six to eight hours. I followed up with a question about his preparation for the tour and he indicated that he had done a few weeks where he rode every day for an hour. Well, here in lies the problem. When riding, the ability to look forward to see where you are going requires you to use your splenius capitis – the prime extender muscle that runs from the back of your neck into your upper back.
It was clear he did not prepare his splenius capitis to endure the burden of maintaining neck extension for the many hours of daily riding required during the cycling tour. His splenius capitis was probably not strong enough and extraordinarily tight because of the arduous work it had to go through.
I told him in order to get ready for such an event, longer duration rides in excess of an hour (2 to 4 hours) twice a week will help condition the neck to endure the extension needed on the tour – specificity of action folks! In combination with the longer rides I said that he could also unlock the tension in his neck muscles every day in training and on a tour with YTU Therapy Balls and YTU neck exercises, before and after cycling. After he started using the YTU Therapy Balls and doing the cycling neck exercises he felt much better in just a few days (one of them is posted below). After a couple of weeks he could ride all day into the sunset pain free.
Read more about the perils of forward head posture.
Read more about neck pain exercises for cyclists.
Another example of how it’s important to consider positioning from head to toe when we think about our bodies in these shapes (specifically, the repeated shapes in endurance sports). Taking a macro view of the body will help us create practices for longevity!
So often cyclists concentrate on the big muscles and strengthen, mobilize and stretch. And forget those little segments of the body that stay mostly still during the ride, forgetting the strength needed in isometric contraction. Good pointers, will share with my brother that does triathlons.
Great article Kristin! Hope all is well in Australia, hope to hear from you the next time you visit Ottawa!
Lovely, will show this to my cycling husband. I am also convinced much of his neck and shoulder pain is from his open mouth breathing/gasping. I am trying to get him to cycle as much as he can with mouth closed breathing with the diaphram rather than open mouth clavicular breathing.
Love these exercises. As a cyclist, I can totally relate to the neck pain from a long ride. I look forward to seeing improvements in my neck strength as well as improving my posture. Thanks!
Love the exercise listed here–will add to my repertoire. Great article too. Totally applicable not just to cyclists but also to…basically most people who sit at a computer, text, or even just walk around with the head jutting forward. Thanks!
Your articles are really great. I am confused now, as I always thought we under used this muscle because many of us sit with our heads forward of our body. Can we use this muscle to extend our head with out extending the neck? Or can it not do its job right because we generally have shortened overworked SMC. How do the suboccipitals play into this? Could they be overworked and tight and the splenius capitis be underworked? I would love more from you regarding the balance of the muscles of our neck and spine 🙂
cyclists here ye here ye… this will undoubtedly be a help for avid text messaging folks, knitters, and the rest of us as well. Pivotal our necks, and vulnerable! These very specific exercises are great tools.
Having had neck pain and continuous headaches for months ….it was the inflammation spenius capitis / a doctor in Mexico gave me the diagnosis …and gave me a laser treatment on these musles. I have not had a pain or headache since then.
[…] our neck pain article. […]
[…] Read our neck pain article. […]
[…] Forward Head Posture (“FHP”, also referred to as Forward Head Syndrome (FHS) and Forward Head Thrust or Neck Thrust) is present when the ear is anterior of the shoulder rather than sitting directly above it. “Good” posture has the ears aligned the over the shoulders, the shoulders aligned over the iliac crests of the pelvis, the iliac crests over the knees and the knees over the lateral malleoli of the ankles. […]
I can speak first hand to how the YTU balls helped my Slpenius. After 2 car accidents last year Whiplash left my neck muscles injured and in pain.swear im a good driver!Massage and Chiropractic did rehab me to almost a 100%. However when I get sloppy with my posture( I look down constantly at work) my Splenius is the first to cause pain and headaches. A 2 min session with the balls instant fix. Love them xo
Great blog Kristin, and your students in Australia will love you! Been awesome to have you doing assists at the Teacher Training in LA, your passion and vivacity are contagious. Keep up the great work!
Such a good reminder that we must train our bodies the way we want them to perform. I ran a half-marathon after training a max of 2miles each run. Needless to say, it was not the most enjoyable experience! I am still using my YTU therapy balls and poses to help release tight hip flexors and quadriceps :/
This is a great exercise that I think I will add to my cycling class. I usually have my students bring their left ear to their left shoulder to stretch the splenius capitis and then repeat the other side. In this video Jill has you rotating and flexing at the same time to really engage the splenius capitis in an eccentric action. Many times when cyclists are complaining about their neck pain it is uaually because they are extending and protracting. This exercise allows them to strengthen the splnius capitis and keep the neck in a more nuetral position.
Love this….most people sit in front of a computer for several hours at a time. These are simple enough to do while taking a quick break to give your neck some strengthening and gentle relief.
It’s good to read about the lesser known muscles of the neck. Many of my students have issues with there neck i’ve been searching for new excercises that I can teach them. I cannot wait to do so! I also learned that In addition to rolling out the muscles it is important to strengthen them before prolonged usage.
many people also use this musclewhenthey are at their desks, working on the computer. my boyfriend is a case in point, and had suffered from chronic neck stiffnes and painthat ran down his neck into his back. just by bringing awarnessto this tendency (and purchasing a proper pillow) he has relieved almost all ofhis neck pain. all it takes sometimes is awareness!
I woke up with neck pain on one side this morning, and after using my YTU Therapy Balls to help me locate the problem, I’m pretty sure the pain was coming from my Splenius Capitis. I’m pretty sure the soreness came from a strained sleeping position, similar to what the man in this post experienced from riding a bike for 8 hours. Good to know how to strengthen and release it!
Great article, and a great point that we must prepare all parts of our bodies, not just the obvious participants, for activities such as biking. I think the neck exercises in the video are excellent and worthwhile to use with lots of different clients to help provide some relief and strength in the often overlooked neck muscles.
Rather inspiring that he was able to recover from the pain so quickly. This is a good workout selection as well, the splenius capitis as well as most muscles of the neck are far too often over looked.
I have a lot of yoga clients who are also bikers and regularly complain of neck pain. This article and video is a great reminder – stretching as well as strengthening the splenius capitis is necessary to prepare the neck for long rides.